This song starts out with feedback and the entrance of an army of distorted guitars. It seeks to disabuse you of the idea that this could be a happy song right in the beginning. Don’t be fooled by those mellow, harmonic notes in the guitars. This song isn’t happy, you get it?
Still though, this song brings up a combination of happy and frightful memories for me. I can swear I hear a chorus pedal on one of those layered guitars. Chorus pedals always make me think of being a kid at the local swimming pool in the summer and dunking my head under the water as long as I could to listen to the music blaring from the speakers and to marvel at how differently the music sounded underneath the surface.
The reference to a sled reminds me of snowy, winter days when I dragged my plastic sled to the top of the hill. The sled didn’t have brakes because us kids in the early/mid 80’s went balls to the wall like that. I would slide over the surface of that steep incline, barreling towards what would inevitably be a hard landing or a crash (and if that isn’t a metaphor for my adult relationship patterns, then I just don’t know what).
But this album in general also reminds me of spring, particularly that hour before a storm hits when you feel the wind getting a little wild and there is electricity in the air. I was just sitting outside on my porch, smoking a cigarette and listening to this song on repeat as I felt a spring storm moving in. Recent evidence shows that this song still fits that scenario.
Can I make it four seasons in one song? Let’s go for it. How about the fall of the human heart? The lyrics don’t give us much to go on. We have a “she” who doesn’t care and is described as a sled; probably someone who barrels down the surface of a relationship towards an inevitable crash. We have a “he” who is just as bad. And we have a “you” whose heart is not there. Does the “you” refer to the “she” or the “he”? Is the “you” the singer singing about himself in second person? Who knows?
All we can say for certain is that there is a definite lack of caring and hearts that just aren’t there. This reminds me of my experiences with two people who have personality disorders, narcissistic and borderline specifically. Although these are two different disorders, they share some similarities in how they are formed and what behaviors may result from those disorders.
Both disorders come from a mixture of genetics and pervasive experiences of neglect, exploitation and/or abuse, usually occurring before age 5. Experiencing these kinds of horrible realities while the brain and the personality are still forming messes with the development process and results in lifelong disordered thinking patterns. They cannot simultaneously hold the view that a person may have both good and bad qualities. A person is either all good or all bad, no in-between. This understanding is formed at a young age when the child has to deal with the reality that the person who loves and cares for them is also the person who abuses and neglects them. Without the coping skills to reconcile this, they split their understanding of the person who abuses into two separate people: there is the person who loves and cares for me and there is another person who abuses and neglects me and these two people just happen to share the same face.
This pattern of understanding people gets carried forward into adult relationships. People with narcissistic and borderline personality disorders will often idealize a person at the beginning of the relationship. You are all good. You are the best person ever. They’ve been waiting all their lives to meet someone as completely awesome as you. But then something will happen that will change the nature of the relationship. They put you on a pedestal so high that no one can actually live up there. Eventually you will disappoint them in some way. It is as inevitable as that crash at the bottom of that snowy hill. With no way to reconcile the reality that you are a good person who may have made a mistake, you become all bad in their eyes.
This behavior is referred to as “splitting”. Being in a relationship with a narcissist or a borderline after they have split you is jarring and leaves you with no firm ground to stand on. You go from being beloved, the person who hung the moon and the stars to being completely worthless. It is not just that you are completely worthless now that you have disappointed them; oh no, you’ve always been worthless from the beginning. You never did one good thing during the entire relationship.
One of the most jarring aspects of being on the receiving end of a split is that the heart of that person that you love is just not there anymore. The only emotions you are likely to get from them are rage and contempt. With the narcissist in my life, the rage was like forest fire burning. With the borderline, the contempt stung like if you put your hand on a block of dry ice and keep there a second too long. At some point, both of those people have looked at me with eyes so vengeful that I felt like they literally wanted to kill me in that moment. I thought I was just being dramatic in interpreting those looks that way until I watched that documentary about Ted Bundy on Netflix and I saw the look of barely contained rage that he gave the judge who ruled against him in the courtroom. It was the same look (and Bundy was a narcissist). Once you see a look like that directed at you, you never forget it.
These are the examples I think of when I hear JM sing of the heart that is just not there. These are extreme examples, I know, but these are the ones I have. I don’t mean to paint people with these personality disorders as being incurably evil. They behave the way that they do because of what was real and irreconcilable trauma. They did not ask to be this way. They are protecting themselves in the only way that they know, flawed as that method may be. I have compassion for that. And that tells me that my heart is still here.